Korean War Legacy Project

Benjamin Arriola (brother of Fernando Arriola)

Bio

Benjamin Arriola describes his brother Fernando Arriola’s experiences in the US Army during the Korean War. He shares that Fernando Arriola became and remains a MIA soldier. Benjamin Arriola describes his brother’s motivation to join the Army, his participation in the Chosin Reservoir where he went MIA, the medals Fernando received for his service. He details his brother’s history as a boxer and how DNA from a knocked tooth during a boxing match is now being used to help identify his potential remains. He expresses that his brother’s sacrifice was worth it based on how far South Korea has come since the war.

Video Clips

MIA in the Chosin Reservoir

Benjamin Arriola describes his brother Fernando Arriola's motivation to join the U.S. Army. He recounts his brother's landing in Inchon and journey to the Chosin Reservoir. He shares that his brother, Fernando, went MIA (Missing in Action) during the battle there and is still considered MIA at the time of this interview.

Tags: 1950 Inchon Landing, 9/15-9/19,1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 11/27-12/13,Wonsan,Chinese,Front lines

Share this Clip +


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-v_bVxcmhm8&start=108&end=249

Classified as a 4A

Benjamin Arriola describes his reasoning for not joining the military. He shares that he was the only survivor in his family helping his mother at the time, and the registrant classified him as a 4A, officially a deferment, because of the lack of men in his family. He added that due to this, he did not have to report unless needed.

Tags: Home front,Pride

Share this Clip +


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-v_bVxcmhm8&start=400&end=440

Medals after MIA

Benjamin Arriola describes the medals his brother, Fernando Arriola, received after being declared MIA and Presumed Dead in the Korean War. He shares that his brother received the Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, and National Defense Service Medal. He displays several certificates sent by officials in South Korea as well.

Tags: Front lines,Home front,Impressions of Korea,Personal Loss,Pride

Share this Clip +


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-v_bVxcmhm8&start=507&end=684

Dental Records for MIA

Benjamin Arriola describes his brother Fernando Arriola's history as a boxer in the Army. He shares the story of how his brother's tooth was knocked out. He details how the DNA extraction from the tooth is now being used to help identify his brother's remains as an MIA soldier if they should ever appear.

Tags: Home front,Letters,Personal Loss

Share this Clip +


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-v_bVxcmhm8&start=841&end=897

Video Transcript

:00

My name’s Benjamin Arriola

0:03

and first name, you spell it B-e-n-j-

0:07

a-m-i-n, that’s Benjamin.  The last name’s

0:10

Arriola, it’s A-r-r-i-o-

0:14

l-a.  What is the ethnic origin of last name, Arriola?

0:18

Actually, Arriola, it starts, actually, it started in Spain,

0:24

which means a rock quarry, and

0:28

that’s where it started.  I got that information.

0:31

When were you born, and where were you born?  I was born here

0:36

in El Paso, back in October the 10th, 1934.

0:40

And tell me about your family.

0:44

Oh, yes.  We were a small family,

0:49

it was my dad, my mom, and three children.  I was the youngest.

0:52

What it was is that my dad took off to Mexico

0:58

with another woman, with another family.

1:01

The responsibility fell mostly on my mother

1:04

because she was unemployed, and she had to

1:08

go back and find a job, which she did,

1:11

and raised three children.  And we lived in a very poor,

1:16

naturally, a very poor side of,

1:20

well, very poor part of the city

1:23

and that’s the only thing we could afford.

1:27

But she did, she raised us up.  Well,

1:33

first of all, she raised all three of us, put us through school.  Anyway, grammar school.

1:37

But my older brother, Fernando,

1:41

what happened is that he found that for him

1:45

to go out and work construction and

1:48

whatever it was, it was very hard on him, so he said,

1:52

“You know, Mom, I would like to join the army.”

1:56

And that’s, he volunteered for the army.

1:58

He joined back in 1948.  1948?  So what happened to him?

2:06

Well, what happened is that first, he went through training

2:10

in California, then, that was back in

2:13

‘48, ‘49.  Then, he was stationed

2:18

in Japan, they shipped him up to Japan,

2:21

and then there, when he was training,

2:25

the Korean War broke out.  Now,

2:28

he was with the 7th Division,

2:32

32nd Infantry Regiment,

2:36

Company A, and he,

2:40

the, actually, they, he was involved, with others,

2:44

in the landing in Inchon.

2:48

The Inchon landing was strategy by

2:54

MacArthur to actually cut the

2:59

North Koreans.  Yeah?  And he was

3:03

involved in that particular landing.  Right after that, they moved him

3:07

all the way from around the peninsula and

3:10

and he landed on the other side,

3:14

which was the east side,

3:18

and, I think it’s Onsong, and from there, they actually moved

3:21

straight north, up to the Chosin Reservoir.  There at the Chosin Reservoir,

3:27

well, I’m, well, they stopped at the right next, I’ll say

3:32

they stopped at the Yellow River.  And MacArthur said,

3:35

“We’re not going any further.  We’re gonna stay here.  And

3:39

there was a discussion, I’m sure, that was

3:42

strategy involved there, I’m just staying there,

3:46

and all this time,

3:49

Chinese were thinking of invading or

3:53

coming down.  Consequently, they came down

3:57

in big numbers, and he was lost,

4:01

he was MIA.  He’s still MIA.  So he was lost

4:06

in Chosin battle?  In the Chosin battle, yes.  When were you notified as MIA

4:11

about your brother?

4:12

Well, we-   Your brother’s name is Fernando.  Fernando.

4:15

F-e-r-n-a-n-d-o. Yes, it is.

4:19

When were you notified about your brother?

4:22

Well, I would, I don’t remember because I was

4:26

fourteen, fourteen years of age, but I would, 1950,

4:30

I would think that he was notified…

4:34

Let’s see, I would say in 1952.

4:38

Because by then the war was going,

4:42

and I think my mother received a telegram that he was Missing

4:46

in Action.  Do you still have that telegram?  I

4:49

do not.  But the only correspondence that I

4:53

do have, I didn’t bring it with me, is about

4:57

his commander that he apologized, I mean not apologized,

5:01

but he informed my mother that he had been lost.  So you still have that correspondence?

5:05

Yes, I think I do.  Okay.  I have to, I have to check on that.

5:10

But not the telegram.  I don’t know what she did with the telegram.

5:13

But my mother’s dead now, my sister is also dead,

5:17

and I’m the only survivor, so.  So when,

5:21

what school did you go through, you go through?  When, what school did you go through?

5:25

Well, we lived in a poor side of, I’ll say, of the

5:28

city and there was a

5:31

grammar school, Franklin School.  Grammar school.

5:35

And now, I attended there up to the sixth grade, and from there,

5:40

I went to junior high,

5:43

which was Bowie High School, and then I

5:46

I was there from seventh, eighth, until I graduated in

5:49

  1. What

5:53

high school?  This is Bowie High School.  B-o-w-i-e

5:57

High School.

6:02

In 1952?   May of 1952.  Okay.

6:05

What happened to you then?  Well, actually,

6:08

after I’d, then, I, after I graduated

6:12

I, I looked for a job and I worked at the service station.

6:16

From there on, I, then I applied for El Paso,

6:20

El Paso Natural Gas Company, and

6:23

I worked there for thirty-three years, and I was a

6:27

printing supervisor.  Mostly, my responsibility was the

6:32

bindery, which I became the bindery supervisor.  And I worked there for thirty-three

6:36

years, and I retired.  And presently I’m…  Did you ever join the military?

6:42

I did not, and the reason is this: since there was only

6:45

three of us in the family, was the children, and I

6:49

went to the registration, and he said,

6:53

and I told him that I was the only, my dad had left, my brother had left, I was the

6:58

only survivor, and I was helping my mother.

7:01

Support.  And they gave me a 4-A, I was classified as a 4-A.  4?

7:05

4-A.  A?  Means?  Which is, that’s

7:09

that’s a deferment, that means that

7:13

you don’t have to to

7:16

actually report unless they need you.  So you told me that you have some pictures of your brother, right?

7:22

Yes.  The first one, that’s my brother, Fernando.

7:25

He’s the one that served in Korea, Missing in Action.

7:29

Second to him is my sister, Lucy.

7:32

She passed away ten years ago, and then that’s me,

7:36

the youngest one on the very end.  And, I’ll tell you, that’s a few years ago.

7:41

But then, that’s the only picture we have, that I

7:44

have of three of us.  Beautiful family.

7:48

Thank you.

7:52

Fernando, you…  No, Fernando, Lucy, and Ben.  And Ben.

7:56

Beautiful.  Well, thank you, thank you very much.  Yeah, very handsome and very pretty.

8:01

Well, thank you.  I, I will tell you that

8:04

my grandfather was from Germany

8:08

and, there, see I would say

8:11

he passed the genes over to my mother, which is half German,

8:15

and we have some German blood in us, maybe that’s the difference.  Okay.

8:21

Plus, we have Indian blood from my father, from Mexico.

8:24

So then show me another picture.

8:28

This is Fernando, and this is El Paso, Texas, when he was born.

8:32

US Army Corporal, Missing in Action – Presumed Dead,

8:36

December the 2nd, 1950.  And this is

8:40

the, the, the Company that

8:43

he served for: Company A, 32nd Infantry, which I mentioned

8:48

also, in the fighting the enemy in North Korea,

8:51

December the 2nd.  And he was presumed

8:54

dead December the 31st.  Now under here, it says

8:58

the awards.  A Purple Heart, the Combat

9:01

Infantry Badge, the Korean Service, the United

9:05

Nations Service Medal, and the National Defense Service

9:10

Medal.  I have received,

9:14

I would say, a certificate: United States of America

9:19

honors the memory of Fernando Arriola, and this certified that he was a

9:23

grateful, you know, for a grateful nation and the Armed Service.

9:27

It was actually sent to me by Lyndon Johnson.

9:31

And then, also in memory of Fernando Arriola,

9:35

same thing, who died in the military operation in Korea.

9:39

On this particular one, it’s Eisenhower,

9:42

General Eisenhower.  But then, he was president.

9:45

Now, also, I have certificates

9:50

of the Pearl Harbor.  Let me see if I can…

9:53

Which he was given.  Was he also in the World War II?

9:58

No, he was not.

10:05

But this, actually this certificate and the medal,

10:08

I received it afterwards.  Tell me about it.

10:13

Well, see, I imagine that when you’re

10:16

Missing in Action, well, he was in action for sure,

10:19

and he was probably wounded.

10:22

And now, there’s no record of that,

10:25

but the government went ahead and sent me,

10:29

or the family, the Purple Heart, which I do have it there at the

10:32

house.  And then, I

10:36

I was, you know, I was received this back in 1954,

10:41

that the president requests that I inform you of the Purple Heart,

10:44

and that was it.  Not only that, but I have received correspondence

10:50

from the, from the, from Korea.

10:54

And on this particular one, the President of the Republic,

10:58

Kim Dae-jung, he has sent us these,

11:02

both in English and in-  Korea?

11:05

in Korean, for sure.  They also,

11:09

I received other certificates

11:14

from the Korean government, and this one’s from

11:17

the retired general, Choi, Seung-Woo.

11:20

Korea.  Now,

11:26

which I have, which is very interesting, to me anyway,

11:29

is that every year, I do get…

11:33

I’m sure others do receive, but what I hold here in my hand

11:39

is actually Christmas cards,

11:42

given, actually sent to me, by Bill Clinton, our

11:47

president.  Look, there

11:50

we go, and

11:54

this one’s…  The latest ones:

11:57

Hillary Clinton,

12:01

Bill Clinton, all of these.

12:04

And this one’s the latest one: I received the Christmas from

12:09

Barack, or President Obama.  What I have here

12:13

is a picture my brother that was…

12:16

He took this picture just before he, he

12:20

returned to El Paso, where we lived.  This is a picture of him

12:25

in the barracks, where he lived.

12:28

And this is a card

12:31

signifying that he was a Catholic, anyway active in the Catholic-  How did you get that picture?

12:35

This one here?  No.  This one?  No.

12:40

This one?  Yeah, I think this was sent by a,

12:43

by a friend of his.  And he also,

12:47

before he went to Japan, he was

12:50

sending pictures, pictures of himself and his friends

12:53

to us.  And this is another picture

12:58

of him, and this is one of his friends,

13:01

Joe, that did, was there with him at the

13:05

barracks training.  This is

13:08

him over here.  You can see it, when he was involved in sports

13:12

and used to run the high hurdles.

13:15

This is the ship, the USS Patrick,

13:18

that, that actually took him to Japan,

13:22

that they shipped out of Seattle to Japan.

13:25

And these are friends of his,

13:28

and you can say they

13:32

loved to take pictures.  There’s a couple, see the, the

13:35

whole, the company that

13:39

he was, that he was, that he belonged to.

13:42

And… Let me see if I’ve got another one.  Yeah.

13:47

This picture over here is the

13:51

company that he belonged to, this is the 32nd Company A,

13:56

and he’s there somewhere.  He has more pictures of his friends right

13:59

there.  Okay, my brother, while he was in the army,

14:03

he actually was a boxer, and some, I think it was during,

14:07

when they were shipping out, they removed, say, when they were in the

14:10

ship and going to Japan, he got in a bout,

14:13

and they knocked the teeth, one of his, one of his

14:17

teeth, the, the, the canine tooth

14:20

was, was actually, he lost his canine tooth.

14:23

And when they declared him Missing in Action,

14:27

they sent back the cameras, they sent back all the

14:31

pictures and correspondence, and they sent me

14:34

his canine tooth.  And what I’ve done with this, is that I have

14:38

actually given it to the Defense Department in Hawaii,

14:42

and they have actually removed some of the DNA, and they have it

14:46

recorded, and if they do ever find it-  His remains, and it will be the evidence.  The evidence-  For matching DNA.

14:54

DNA, exactly.  So that’s

14:57

about it.  But then lately, the reason I

15:01

I know more about the Chosin

15:05

Reservoir is because I have this book that I’ve read it a couple of times.

15:08

And it tells me just what really happened at the

15:12

Chosin Reservoir.  The different chapters.  And I’ve

15:16

underlined several things that have happened there that were

15:20

very, I would say,

15:23

hurtful.  One was the weather that they suffered-  Why don’t you read it?

15:27

Okay.  Actually, east of the Chosin, and it’s actually the…

15:31

written by Roy Appleman.

15:36

Yeah.  And what happened is this man did a lotta research

15:40

on the Chosin.  He actually interviewed

15:44

many of the ones that, that came back.

15:47

And that there weren’t that many, few.  And they have

15:51

different battles, and at the end, more important, is it has,

15:56

this is very interesting, it tells you the number

16:00

of fighting men that were there at the beginning of

16:04

Chosin and number that came back.  There were two thousand and only two hundred

16:09

came back.  Okay.  So, my brother was one of the

16:13

ones that did not come back.  So, your brother is still Missing in Action.  Yes, he is.

16:19

And you would love to have his remains back.

16:26

And that’s why the Americans and Korean governments are working so hard.  Do you know anything about Korea?

16:31

Yes.  Where he fought for?  Yes, I did.  Tell me about that.

16:35

I have, the, I’ll say, the government has a program, and it’s called…

16:38

Revisit Program?  Revisit Program, thank you.

16:41

And it’s Revisit, and I’ve been there, and I’ve visited Korea.  I’ve been

16:45

to Seoul, Incheon.  And I visited the

16:48

memorials, and…  And it gives me goose pimples, because I just

16:53

think of a country and what happened there, my brother’s still

16:56

there.  And it’s, it’s, it’s, I guess it’s, it hurts me.  To see that he gave

17:03

his life, he’s still there, and I can’t find him.

17:07

I would be a very…

17:10

I would think, it would be, before I would die, because I’m the last one of the family,

17:16

to actually receive his remains.  And then he’ll be here, with me in El Paso.

17:21

And you’ve done,

17:24

what you have done in the last sixty-four years, it’s

17:28

just amazing.  To be on the top of the world.  So,

17:32

my brother’s sacrifice and all the other sacrifices was

17:35

sure worth it.  Thank you very much for

17:39

recognizing and keep us, you know, informed,

17:43

and we appreciate everything you do for us.

17:47

Thank you very much, Ben, for sharing your

17:50

brother’s story, and you’re

17:53

so passionate about the possibility for the return of your

17:58

brother’s remains.  We will pray together, and we

18:01

hope that you can put a closure

18:06

on his whole service.  On behalf of Korean nation, we thank you.  Thank you.

18:10

Your brother.  Yes, thank you.